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Online Pre-Natal Test kits evade govt scrutiny

Even though India has banned sex determination tests but devices that can reveal the gender of a baby are available online. The device named Gender Maker can determine whether a girl or a boy child will be born. Through the Gender Maker urine test, women can determine the sex of their unborn child during the 6th week of their pregnancy. The device’s urine gender prediction test will provide instant results. India already witnesses the largest number of female feticides in the world. Why doesn’t the government take steps to impose a ban on these products and websites?

Dr. Neelima Mantri said, “First of all, these products don’t have any license to operate in India. India has a skewed sex ratio and therefore, it is necessary to address this issue to prevent female feticide which is happening in many states. The government should take steps to tackle female feticide incidents.”

“It is ethically wrong to conduct sex determination and use such devices. Patients’ relatives and doctors will have to face consequences if they indulge in such illegal activities. To stop such incidents there is a need to change the conservative mindset of the society,” she added.

The Modi government had coined the slogan “Beti Bachao Beti Padhao” to address the gender imbalance and prevent the discrimination against the girl child. Prime Minister Narendra Modi had asked fathers to click selfies with their daughters. However, this initiative has merely turned into a photo-op session as the government has failed to take steps to empower girl child and prevent female feticide. Female feticides occur as Indians mostly crave for the male child and girl child is always considered as a liability for the family as lump sum amount needs to be spent on dowry during her marriage. Therefore, daughters are considered as a financial burden by the family members.

Dr. Anita Soni said, “Non-Invasive Prenatal Test (NIPT) is available in India but it is being used for scientific purposes and not for sex determination. However, the government should remain strict as there is a possibility of misuse of NIPT. The government should either ban this device or impose heavy taxes on it so that it becomes unaffordable to people.”

Despite the government imposing a ban on sex determination test, people continue to purchase sex determination devices thereby violating the law. While the Maharashtra government had taken action against several clinics conducting sex determination tests, it is difficult to nab those people buying devices online. Already, the state has the highest number of non-registered clinics operating in the country that illegally conduct sex determination tests. The national child sex ratio (number of girls per 1,000 boys) had dropped from 927 in 2001 and further to 914 in 2011. In Maharashtra, the sex ratio has steeply fallen from 913 in 2001 to 883 in 2011.

Dr. Renu Agarwal said, “Female feticide incidents are increasing in India and such sex determination device is illegal in the country. The government should take action against those persons who are buying or selling these products.”

The government had imposed a ban on the determination of a fetus under the Pre-natal Diagnostic Techniques Regulation and Prevention of Misuse Act of 1994. The act was later amended in 2003 to The Pre-Conception and Pre-Natal Diagnostic Techniques (Prohibition of Sex Selection) Act (PCPNDT) to improve the regulation of the technology used in sex selection. As per the act, it is compulsory for all ultrasound facilities to get registered and for medical practitioners to maintain records of every scan performed on pregnant women. The administration had taken these steps to control the decline in the number of girls born for every 1,000 boys born in the nation. However, the government has failed to implement the law effectively due to lack of proper monitoring mechanism.

Dr. Ranjana Dhanu said, “India is witnessing a gender imbalance. We cannot allow any kind of sex determination tests in our country. Society should not crave for a male child as it will create gender inequality. It is necessary to put a curb on such test to prevent female feticide. The government must regulate the sale of such products being sold online through the PCPNDT Act.”

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